- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 19, 2004

Family, friends and public officials filled the Greater Morning Star Pentecostal Church in Northeast yesterday to say goodbye to a young brother and sister killed on September 11 by a driver that police said was fleeing a drug sting.

An estimated 600 people paid their respects during the viewing and funeral for 8-year-old Octavia Michelle Suydan and her brother, 7-year-old Christopher Edward Suydan Jr.

Long lines formed inside the church as the public filed by two small white caskets surrounded by colorful sprays of flowers. Portraits of Octavia, nicknamed “Tavi,” and Christopher, known as “C.J.,” were prominently displayed, along with a photographic collage of the siblings at play in various settings.

Assistant Pastor Fletcher Davis officiated over the 2 hour “Homegoing Celebration” service. The children were eulogized by the church’s pastor, Bishop Charles E. Johnson, who said God is capable of getting one’s attention when He wants it.

“Our children belong to God, and we possess them for a little while and then they move on. But @ times like these, you ask, ‘Why did the Lord take them?’ The Lord will sometimes take the innocent to try and get the guilty,” Bishop Johnson said.

Among those who came to offer their condolences were D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton; Andre J. Hornsby, chief executive of Prince George’s County public schools; and Jeffrey Holmes, principal of Longfields Elementary School in Prince George’s County, where Christopher was a student.

“These children did not live in the District, but they lost their lives in the District. I come in love and [with] great sympathy to bring the sympathy of the residents of the District of Columbia. They would want me to come,” Mrs. Norton said.

“The police department has a lot of explaining to do — I’m a mother, too. … Children should not be struck down in the street [while walking] with their father,” she said.

According to a Metropolitan Police Department spokesman, a fleeing suspect in a drug sting drove through 12th Street and Florida Avenue NE as the children were crossing with their father a few steps behind and ran the children down. The children were taken to Children’s Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

Mrs. Norton described the children’s mother, Towhanna Boston, as “dedicated” to her little ones and Christopher Suydan Sr. as a father who was taking responsibility for his children.

“I want to say to the family, you have done what God wanted you to do. I speak for this city, and we still have work to do,” Mrs. Norton said.

Octavia was remembered as a youngster who enjoyed chocolate-chip waffles and eggs and cheese for breakfast. She also enjoyed watching food being prepared. “She watched the cooking channels daily with the attentiveness of a chef in training.” Her brother was described as “sweet, conscientious and compassionate.”

Pat Williams, Octavia’s fourth-grade teacher at Hillcrest Heights Elementary School in Prince George’s County, said: “On Monday morning, I tried to be as normal as possible. I told the class ‘Something has happened, and Octavia will no longer be with us.’ A hush fell over the room that I cannot describe.

“In my 26 years of teaching, this has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Ms. Williams said with tears in her eyes. “You could not have asked for a sweeter child.”

Mr. Hornsby, who is charged with the education of more than 139,000 students in Prince George’s County public schools, told the family to take solace in the knowledge that Octavia and Christopher will always be remembered by their schoolmates.

“Your loss is our loss. [Take] solace [in knowing] there are children who will always remember your children. On behalf of Prince George’s County public schools, the faculty of Hillcrest Heights and Longfields Elementary School, please accept our sympathy,” Mr. Hornsby said.

“When you take these jobs, you never know what will happen. You’re a wonderful mother and thank you for trusting Prince George’s County public schools with your children,” he said.

The children’s father said he felt assured that Octavia and Christopher were fine.

“Our children look to us for guidance. As parents, we try to lead them in the right direction. I know Tavi and Chris are with God because of how they were raised and lived their lives,” he said.

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